A champion for diversity in science, a recognized expert on mentoring, and an advocate for sustainable engineering solutions comprise the winners of the 2018 Provost’s Awards for Excellence.
Alexander Rudolph, professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy; Felicia Friendly Thomas, professor in the psychology and sociology department; and Mingheng Li, professor of chemical and materials engineering will be recognized at their respective college commencement ceremonies in June and will present at a symposium in 2019.
The awards recognize faculty who have distinction in the areas of teaching, scholarly and creative activities, and service. They are made possible by a grant from the $42 million Kellogg Legacy Project Endowment.
Excellence in Teaching
Alexander Rudolph, professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, has been recognized locally, nationally, and internationally for his mentoring and teaching of historically underrepresented students in physics and astronomy. He is the founder of the California Minority Partnership for Astronomy Research and Education (CAMPARE) and Cal-Bridge, a program that brings together CSU and UC campuses. Rudolph has mentored and co-authored papers with many undergraduate students. He has published numerous articles about research on the effectiveness of interactive learning strategies in physics and astronomy. His work has received significant external grant funding, most of which is focused on classroom teaching pedagogy and the promotion of diversity in physics and astronomy. Many of Rudolph’s former students are attending Ph.D. programs at prestigious universities around the country.
Excellence in Service
Felicia Friendly Thomas, professor in the Department of Psychology & Sociology, was one of six African American children who integrated an all-white school in rural South Carolina in the 1960s. Friendly Thomas is a passionate champion of under-served and underrepresented people, especially first-generation college students like her. She co-founded the Cal Poly Child and Family Services Friendmobile Program, a parenting and tutoring/mentoring center on wheels that provided free services to local communities. The Friendmobile evolved into a program in which psychology students serve at community facilities and schools. Friendly Thomas has been recognized for her research on diversity, bias, and mentoring — conducting numerous workshops and invited presentations. She was a distinguished speaker and “Terman Master Teacher” for the Western Psychological Association and James Jones Invited Speaker for the American Psychological Association. She was also a Malone Fellow with the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and has served on city and county agencies and commissions.
Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activities
Mingheng Li, professor of chemical and materials engineering, has developed a nationally recognized research program in process systems engineering with a variety of practical applications, including water desalination, renewable and sustainable energy techniques, air quality control and advanced materials processing. Li’s numerous publications, including 44 peer-reviewed articles in top-tier journals and six book chapters, have received more than 1,200 citations. He is a member of the distinguished editorial board of the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy and Coatings. Recognized for blending teaching and research, Li is proud of his undergraduate students’ outstanding achievements, from winning scholarships to completing their graduate studies at prestigious programs nationwide to working at top engineering companies.